The Tyldwick Tarot — a review and sample reading

IMG_0468I’ve had this deck around 6 weeks now, and it is one of those treasures whose richness radiates from its mere presence—but its full depth can only be experienced through quiet and solitary study, letting its world sink into the unconscious and watching how that world resurfaces in the conscious mind.

Instead of depicting people or animals, abstract elements or objects, it depicts rooms, gardens, and courtyards in a mansion. The deck unravels itself over time, but only as much as you are willing to live in the mansion and explore its every chamber. The mansion is vacant—nobody’s home… except you. Nonetheless, the house is very lived in; an ancient mansion you’ve inherited. Each room carries the traces of its previous occupants—some of them are still very present, even if they are no longer there.

 If these walls could talk

Well, they do. Each room is a set of stories, everything that has happened within their walls is still contained there… and these stories carry the wisdom of age.

In working with this deck, walk through the halls and pick a room. Like a Holmesian detective, follow the traces of those who’ve lived in this house and sit in their wisdom. Eventually, the realization comes that this mansion is not somewhere outside, some imaginary place, but is instead a representation of the mind’s very own house. Each room, garden, cellar, foyer, library, is a corner where consciousness dwells; each door and window an access point from one aspect of consciousness to the next.

The deck itself is beautifully crafted. Each image is constructed in a way that they could be photographs, but they don’t have the same feel as many photographic decks—true to the overall theme, they are more like the lithographs of the early 1900’s but richly colored in a way that preserves a stained and antique feel, while still making each room come alive. Its creator, Niel Lovell, wanted readers to be able to place themselves in each part of the house, in each card, and he certainly achieved that!

Adding to this richly antique feel are the gilded borders. Unlike some gilded edge decks, the gilding is smooth and satiny, and doesn’t unnecessarily stiffen the cards… it feels intrinsic as opposed to applied.

The cards are sturdy, but not too thick—so they feel broken in after only a few shuffles. At the same time, they feel robust enough to stand up to many years of dedicated use… although I wouldn’t treat this deck roughly.

The back has a very subtle difference of tone between the left and right borders, which makes the cards fully reversible, but are also easily “righted” going by the backs only—the only way one can tell this subtle difference is if the cards are spread to reveal their sides, but when the pack is set on the table, the back on the top of the pack looks the same reversed or upright. I personally love this detail, it doesn’t prevent reversals, but immediately lets me know when cards are reversed and adds some irregularity when they are.

Each suit follows an elemental color scheme: greys for Swords/Air, reds for Staves/Fire, blues for Cups/Water, and browns for Coins/Earth. The Courts also have their own intrinsic themes: all the Pages are garden courtyards—the Earth aspect of their suit, the Knights are fireplace mantles—the Fire aspect, Queens are ponds—the Waters of reflection, and Kings are foyers with grand windows and high ceilings—the Air and grandeur of imagination. Pages and Queens are outdoors, in nature, feminine; the Knights and Kings are indoors, within structure. masculine.

Although the Tyldwick can be used for any of the external situations we encounter when reading, I find it is best used for interior exploration. After walking through the deck a fair bit, sitting in each room, meditating in each place, and doing some personal readings, I wanted to see how it would fare when reading for others. Tiffany volunteered with a perfect question to ponder within the Tyldwick mansion:

How are my spiritual gifts developing, and what can I expect of them in the near future?

I drew the cards on June 21, the Summer Solstice, and the ideal time to consider how the light of consciousness is peaking. The spread is a Summer Solstice or Sun spread, adapted from Tarosophy.

Solstice-2 Solstice-2

Spread positions:

1. Your present spiritual state; what you’ve achieved and are currently doing: Knight of Staves
2. How you can express your spiritual gifts: The Wheel of Fortune
3. What requires a little more attention/development: Ace of Staves
4. What might be obstructing your development, and can be set aside for now: Nine of Staves
5. What you already have and can enhance to support your development: Eight of Staves
6. What to leave behind for good: Three of Swords
7. What you can learn from your past in moving forward: King of Cups
8. What to remember most: Three of Coins
9. What to do more of, or continue on with: Five of Staves
10. Deep card, underlying concerns: Five of Swords

This is a very Fire/Staves heavy spread! Certainly, the solar influence is strong here! With so many fire cards, the overall message of the spread is that this is an active situation, an period in which you are passionate about doing everything you need to for your spiritual development. Although spirit is contained in All, the spark of divinity is often represented by fire and seen to exist in fire. This is also the element of transition and transformation, so this is likely indicative of a significant change in the near future, especially given that all the fire cards are grouped together and are moving toward the right, while the other elements, which may have exerted some control over Fire up until now, are to the left. The fire is rising, and The Wheel at the top centre instigates that shift.

Your present spiritual state; what you have achieved and what you are presently doing:

-Knight of Staves-


Here, the Knight is really in his element of fire. This is where the Knight tends to his inner flame, where he honours the fire within. All of the Knights in the Tyldwick are fireplace mantles — an homage to the seed of Fire intrinsic to all Knights. Being in his element, here, though, the Knight doesn’t struggle against opposing elements… but this also may mean that his fire, uncontrolled, could become destructive. This is a reminder that no matter how altruistic the intention, it is possible to do harm when the force behind any action is too powerful.

Thankfully, the Knight has installed some failsafes around his fireplace: the victory staves adorn solid pillars to border the flames, and a decorative screen shields some of the heat as well as preventing errant sparks from jumping from the fire unintentionally. Beyond this screen, the vases overflow with red roses, indicating that your passion may at times need to be softened with the sweetness of roses. In fact, the greater the passion, the more the roses may be necessary to soften the “heat” of your actions so that they help your target rather than burn them.

Above the fireplace on the mantle itself, we find a clock flanked by Asian dragons — traditionally viewed as the bearers and protectors of Fire. They appear paired to signify the positive and negative aspects of fire’s transformative properties, while at the same time adding some protection, a “cap” to the fire burning below. They face outward from the clock, again in a protective arrangement, but also signifying the radiating effect a well tended interior fire. As your spiritual practice develops, your spiritual gifts will naturally radiate outward, rippling out on the waves of time.

Above the clock, above (and perhaps beyond) time, is a mirror. This is not only a place to stoke your inner fire, but to self-reflect as you do so. The two go hand-in-hand, for as you self-reflect, you are tending your inner fire, and in that reflection you will see the areas not only where you are burning brightly, but also where the kindling is weak. Self-reflection also helps temper the potentially destructive nature of your inner fire — which can be destructive both inwardly as well as outwardly — by bringing you back to presence, back to the timeless nature of self. This invariably sets Fire in-check without stifling it.

Some numbers significant in the reading are referenced in this card, particularly the fives and the threes. There are two Five cards and two Three cards upcoming, and the Knight is “crowned” by both these numbers in the triad formed between the dragons and the mirror, and then added to by the rings in the victory staves. Threes are a movement toward stability, through the consolidation of opposing forces. Threes still have movement, however, ensuring that Fire retains its fluidity. fives, in contrast, are a movement away from stability — they break the stability of Fours, moving beyond comfort and into the unknown, the unconventional. Threes and Fives share the nature of change, and therefore echo Fire’s intrinsic characteristic of transformation.

How you can express your spiritual gifts:

-The Wheel of Fortune-


Continuing from one card of change, we rise up to a second card of change, The Wheel. This Wheel is outside, in the garden, where all the elements coexist, but in a decidedly Earthy and Watery way. Water turns this Wheel, in fact, using nothing but the basic force of gravity to keep the Wheel turning. This is a reminder that change, like Water flowing down hill with gravity, is inevitable. Change may be slow at times, explosive at others, but it is always happening.

Given the potential volatility of the Knight of Staves and the upcoming Staves, this earthy and watery Wheel slows some of the Knight’s speed and tempers some of his power. This is the Wheel’s blessing. It takes the impulsiveness of the Knight and turns it into reflection, the Wheel’s Water supporting the reflective aspect of the Knight’s mirror above his mantle.

This watery earthy garden nurtures the very flowers that adorn the Knight’s fireplace. It is in stalling, in patience, that you will find the softness to change potentially damaging actions to powerfully helpful ones.

What requires a little more attention/development:

-Ace of Staves-


It may seem odd to suggest more fire as something needing more attention and development when the first card was so clearly indicating that the fire is burning well and bright. However, it is also important to realize that the more intensely a fire burns, the more easily it can burn itself out.

I think that the Ace of Staves here is reminding you that you must continually refuel your spiritual flame. Recognize the essence of who you are and what really lights you up from the inside: whatever this is is your Ace. It is your kindling. It is that part that the Knight nurtures when self-reflecting.

Whenever you retire to your fire room, take the kindling with you. recognize the root from which your passions and your spiritual gifts burn from; and also look at the roots of your desires and actions — often these root causes are unknown, especially in the impulsiveness of fiery activity. Try to ensure that your actions are not merely reactions to situations you have no control over, or in which you feel you are losing control. At the root of these reactions, too, is often fear: fear of not being loved, of looking stupid, of being rejected; fear of failure — or of success!

Figure out, in reflection, when and how these fears cause you to react. In sorting out the root causes of reactivity, your fire will not only burn more brightly, but the potentially destructive nature is mitigated. Recognize, too, that fear and rage are closely related, and the find their ways to expression in often subtle and insidious ways — even when not expressed, they can still be destructive, but they wind up destroying you rather than others.

What might be obstructing your development, and can be set aside for now:

-Nine of Staves-


What is your greatest burden? Are you, perhaps, setting yourself up for failure by taking too much on? Or, is your expectation of yourself greater than you can manage?

Often, when the talent is great, the expectation of greatness actually hinders the potential. Does the Knight of Staves in you expect such greatness that it is a burden to live up to? How does that stand in your way? Notice how you are blocking yourself, either by taking on too much or by expecting too much of yourself, or both.

Notice how the flowers are repeated here, but the fullness and abundance is markedly less. There is so much fuel for the fire that it actually snuffs the fire out. If the Knight of Staves throws too many logs on the Fire, even the consuming and transformative nature of fire will stifle the flame and it will die.

Return to your root, your Ace, which is reminding you to look at your fears and beneath those fears what really makes you burn. Is the fear of failure causing you to take on more than you can carry?

Acknowledge that it is OK to reduce your burden, either by delegating, saying no, or asking for assistance when you are overwhelmed. Just because you can carry the weight of the world on your shoulders doesn’t mean you should.

What you already have and can enhance to support your development:

-Eight of Staves-


You have no shortness of inspiration, that is for sure. Your quiver is full. You have many choices, many passions, many talents, and many potential courses of action. What matters, though, is not the abundance of options, but instead staying “on target” and focusing your gifts toward a definite goal. You don’t necessarily need to narrow yourself down to one goal, but the more you can focus your energies on a limited number of targets, the more efficient you will be in expending your energy wisely and effectively.

By making your actions more precise, through concentrating your efforts, you will be less likely to overburden yourself. It keeps coming back to recognizing the flame within, that bullseye in the centre of the target is the bright red-hot ember of the Ace, your own spiritual centre that both reflects in on itself and radiates its heat outward.

In helping others with spiritual matters, use all your skills to get to the heart of their matters — help them, too, find their burning ember within. With practice, you will develop the knowledge and skill to draw a single arrow, take aim, and hit the centre. Be wary, though, some clients may need a softer touch, so although you will be able to strike the target in one shot, you may need let the arrows rest and keep your eye on the centre, but lead your clients there on their own so that your sharpness is not upsetting or damaging to them.

What to leave behind for good:

-Three of Swords-


Ah, this is really interesting. In many representations, this is the card of heartbreak, or of worry — especially when that worry is of a more emotional nature. Here, we have a fairly lonely and untended place. It seems as though we’re around the back of the mansion, the forgotten wing, and we’re outside of this stone wall, looking in… or attempting to look in… through darkened and dusty windows. This could also be the rectory, or the wing dedicated to religious practice. This kind of religious association is normally attributed to cards like the Hierophant, and not the Three of Swords, but often organized religious practice and one’s own spirituality can cause a discord between the head and the heart — what one feels spiritually, and what one has been told or indoctrinated into can conflict, and the result is that we often confine either our personal spirituality or the more dogmatic aspects of religion into a dank side wing of ourselves, that we rarely visit. It becomes dark and dusty, and before long, that part of ourselves is not where we live, we do not inhabit this wing, and rather access it as though we are outsiders to this part of ourselves.

In this spread position, the Three of swords is not so much advising to leave this part behind for good, but rather to leave your separation behind. Find a way to make this forgotten wing of your own house a part of you, instead of cutting it off, and only accessing it vaguely from the outside. Leave this separation behind, do not shut yourself out of the spiritual places you’ve cut yourself off from, especially if they are rooted in dogmatic spiritual ideas that carry over from your religious experience or upbringing. At the same time, also don’t shut out that history, as there may be some keys to them that are hidden within the orthodoxy that may have alienated you from yourself at one time. Leave that separation behind, and integrate what you can… and what you can’t integrate, leave THAT behind for good!

What you can learn from your past in moving forward:

-King of Cups-


Ah, another mirror… but this time beyond it is the outdoors, an open sky. The Tyldwick’s Kings are represented similarly to the Knights, indoors, but always near windows with high, high ceilings — expressing the element of Air that all Kings in the deck share. As the element of the mind, Air pairs with Water in the King of Cups. This is the level of emotional maturity where heart and mind are in congruence with each other. This is a deeply meditative place, a place to sit and reconcile the watery aspects of the emotional field, to feel, sense, and smell the clean, crispness of being emotionally attuned to the mind’s processes.

This is a place of maturity, yes, but also of refreshment. There’s a tranquility here, whose coolness breaks the heat of the wands to the right. In your past position, what to learn from and take forward, recall any and all moments where you have felt deeply at peace within yourself, where heart and mind have been one. Feel the temperature of that ease, as a cool and refreshing breeze passing through you, cleansing you of all unnecessary concerns and restoring any sense of newness and wonder that you may have had in the past, coupled with the deep knowing that comes from lack of doubt, lack of internal conflict. Remember that sometimes in our ambition, in our desire to move things from where they are to where we want them to be, we forget that spiritual “progress” is a practice of undoing, of uncovering the harmony between thought and sensation that has always existed, but that we have created an artificial separation between.

Once you find the memory of sensation and thought being congruous, make the sensations as real as possible for yourself… forget about the memory itself — it was just a tool to get you to this place of ease and calm — once there, absorb the sensations, the coolness, the ease, the Air, the freedom, but also the weight and fluidity of your body’s changing sensations. Let the waters calm, drink in the moist, subtle smell of the lilies, and understand the this deep place of knowing, where thought and sensation converge, is a place that you can take forward with you whenever you feel overwhelmed, whenever your Fire burns too hot for yourself and others.

The reflections you observe in this mirror are of your deep past, before the slights of ego, the embarrassments, the disappointments, the failures… but they are also reflections of a future when those things don’t matter, when your own self-reflection recognizes only the importance of your interior wisdom. The King of Cups is almost another aspect of the Moon, in his Watery wisdom. See yourself as though reflected in the Moon, cool, calm, observant, high above the Earth, yet pulling the tides of your emotional base from a wise and aloof — but not detached — orbit. Remember that the light reflected by the Moon is the same light emitted by the Sun, but tempered and cooled for greater ease of consumption. Where the heat and brightness of the Sun’s rays can burn and destroy, the reflected silvery light reflected by the Moon calms, settles, and nurtures.

What to remember most:

-Three of Coins-


From the mentally reflective Waters of the King of Cups’ memories, we arrive in the solid grounding of the Three of Coins. This card is backing you, it’s driving the entire reading from the far left as the cards grow out and then refocus. iIt is also your only Earth card. So as “what to remember most,” it is the ground of your spiritual base, your very being. Three of Coins is often associated with skill, which speaks to the skill you inherently have, but often forget, of staying with the Earth, with the here and now. The fiery drive of the cards moving to the right can at times uproot you from what is currently happening. Remember that one of your greatest skills is that very pragmatism your drive can take you away from.

The three also speaks of trinity, of union between opposites and the resultant third state. Here we see that the three is not perfectly balanced, but that two coins are more closely held together, while the third floats away… remember that the three coins are inseparable, and be wary of “the floating coin” — especially when it is in danger of floating away!

This place could be a damp, mossy, shed that receives little light, but which also stores all your Earthly tools. It is a place that is perhaps not as pretty and refined as many other places in your interior palace, but is nonetheless enjoyable! It takes you to the root of things, their practicality. Working with the tools, digging into the Earth and getting your hands and feet a little dirty, is where your skill really shines, and it’s nourishing to you too! Just don’t forget about that part of your practice as the Fire burns hotter and hotter…

What to do more of, or continue on with:

-Five of Staves-


Continue with your studies. The Five of Staves is usually about struggle, and we can see that in the Grecian shield, but what is the struggle really about? The spears and the shield are set to rest… so this is not an outward struggle, it’s a struggle within. On the chair is a stack of books… Six books, raising the level from Five — struggle & change, to Six — balance & harmony. Between the shield and spears and the books is the chair’s back; a curious back, indeed.

The frame is missing the chair back itself, suggesting much more active study. This is not the kind of book reading that you do leaning back on your comfy sofa to get away from the world, no, it is rather a chair you must sit up and forward in. The seat is cushioned, but has negligible back support.

More than this, the chair back’s frame is a ring, and no ordinary ring… it is a ouroboros. This is of course the ageless symbol of infinity, cycles, rebirth, the neverending chain of regeneration, of growth and destruction, of wisdom and innocence. The ring it forms is a barrier between struggle and knowledge. In this case, struggle is there, but that struggle is ready to be left aside in the pursuit of neverending knowledge.

Now, which books rest on that seat? Are there six in number, six particular books to study, or is the number six merely symbolic of the kinds of studies to pursue? These studies would be those that help you find balance and carry you through the struggle of learning. They may even be subjects that are removed from those you are struggling with, seemingly irrelevant to your spiritual growth, but which make you more rounded as a person — not only is Five a number of change, but also of balance… not by its very number in the same way the Six is, but by its place on the single-digit stream, One at one pole, and Nine at the other. Smack dab in the middle is Five… and this is where the struggle is, because striking perfect balance is not so much a lack of force, but a constant reassessment and equalizing of opposing forces. This is what is perhaps meant by the fighting wrestlers — when the strength of both wrestlers is matched, it becomes a draw, and they let down their shields. But provided there is flux, change, between their respective forces, a constant battle results.

At the same time, this battle between opposing forces can also be seen as a dance. The interesting lessons in life are the result of imbalance, of that dance between opposing forces gaining and losing balance, gaining and losing prominence. Learn the dance, and approach this struggle not with aggression, but rather a fervor for play, debate, growth, and learning.

Deep card, underlying concerns:

-Five of Swords-


The opposite of the Five of Staves, really. Isolation. Defeat. Burnout. Rather than feeding Fire, your concern is that Air will kill it. And it’s a legitimate concern — without the necessary fuel and control from the other elements, the Fire can burn itself out, leaving nothing but dry, brittle abandoned twigs and stone.

To ensure your fear doesn’t become your reality, continually ensure you give yourself time and space to first assess whether you are burning yourself out or not, whether you have the required fuel, momentum, and control to avid that burnout. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to slow down, though — there will be times when the fuel and momentum are ample, and the only thing (as mentioned earlier) that you may be careful to watch for is burning others!

Following these periods, be sure to restock on your other elements, and let the Fire simmer.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Tiffany Fitzpatrick says:

    Michael- A big thank you for letting me be a part of this deck review. This reading is spot on & makes perfect sense with everything that has been going on in my life from a spiritual perspective. Every question has been answered for me – even ones I didn’t know I had ! Very accurate and informative , covering every aspect of my situation. Thank you so much !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maveriker says:

      You are most welcome! It was a really interesting reading for me to do, and it got me well and deeply into the Tyldwick, which I’ve not had a lot of time to work with lately… Such a fascinating deck for this type of work, glad you could benefit too!


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